Five musicians brought proposed class actions against Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York today (February 5).
The legal action is based on the refusal of those two labels to ‘permit recording artists to terminate grants of copyright interests 35 years after the initial release’ of the artists’ albums.
The suits seek damages for copyright infringement and declaratory relief.
The suit against Sony was filed by David Johansen, a singer and songwriter best known as a member of the New York Dolls, who also performed as Buster Poindexter; John Lyon, known as Southside Johnny, a NJ recording artist considered to be the ‘Grandfather of the New Jersey Sound’; and Paul Collins, a power-pop artist who performed as Paul Collins’ Beat.
The suit against UMG was filed by John Waite (pictured), best known for his hit 1984 single Missing You, and his work with the band The Babys; and Joe Ely, an Austin-based singer-songwriter who has a long and acclaimed career spanning rock and country genres.
Section 203 of the Copyright Act, enacted in 1976 and commonly known as the 35-year law, represents ‘a major legal issue in the music industry’, according to the press release announcing the action.
The plaintiffs claim that Sony and Universal have violated the law and refused to allow recording artists, who have sent Notices of Termination to those companies, to take back ownership and control of their US copyrights.
Plaintiffs are also represented by Maryann R. Marzano, a Los Angeles attorney who recently brought successful class action suits against Sirius XM and Spotify, and by Gregory M. Bordo, David C. Kistler, and David M. Perry of the national firm of Blank Rome LLP.
“Sony and UMG have refused to acknowledge the validity of any of the Notices, and have completely disregarded the artists’ ownership rights by continuing to exploit those recordings and infringing upon our clients’ copyrights.”
Evan S. Cohen, Music attorney
Evan S. Cohen, a Los Angeles music attorney, who represents the plaintiffs and over one hundred other recording artists who have sent Notices of Termination to Sony and Universal said: “Our copyright law provides recording artists and songwriters with a valuable, once-in-a-lifetime chance to terminate old deals and regain their creative works after 35 years.
“This ‘second chance’ has always been a part of our copyright law. Sony and UMG have refused to acknowledge the validity of any of the Notices, and have completely disregarded the artists’ ownership rights by continuing to exploit those recordings and infringing upon our clients’ copyrights.
“This behavior must stop. The legal issues in these class action suits have never been decided by a court, and are of paramount importance to the music industry.”Music Business Worldwide